Learning jazz basics


Learning Jazz basics part 1: The most important chord when learning jazz is ….

The Dominant 7 chord!

This isn’t just the heart of learning jazz basics but is used in most western music.

This chord is built on the 5th note of a major or minor scale.

Rather than keeping you guessing, I’ll name the chord now: the dominant 7!

For example, note 5 of the G major scale is D, so the chord of D dominant 7 is built from the note D.


A dominant 7 chord has 4 notes and is made up of a major triad plus a minor 3rd.

An example is C + E + G + B♭. The first three notes make up the C major triad and B♭ is a minor 3rd (or 3 half steps) above the G.

Another way to construct this chord is to play the C major scale and then flatten the 7.

But, more importantly, the note that it is built on (the root) is note 5 of the major, or minor scale. Here is the scale of F major.

The interval 5 – 1, in this example C moving up to F, is crucial to your understanding of not only playing jazz piano. It is the foundation of most western music.

The interval of note 5 moving up to note 1 (the same note as 8) is called a perfect 5th interval. 

The interval of note 5 moving down to note 1 is called a perfect 5th interval.

Now see how this scale looks when we start this F major scale on note 5. This is known as the Mixolydian mode.

Learning jazz basics

We can now build our C dominant 7 chord from 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 of this scale.

Although the full name of this chord is C dominant 7, it is often just referred to as C7.

So now it’s your turn to build some dominant 7 chords. Remember …

Build a major triad and then add a minor third above it.


Play the major scale, play 1, 3 and 5 but then flatten the 7


Play 1, 3, 5 and 7 of the Mixolydian mode.

In the next blog I will show you why this chord is not only essential to your understanding of jazz basics but will also improve your jazz solos.

In the meantime, discover dominant 7 chords for yourself.

Here’s just one more:

Bb dominant 7 = Bb + D + F + Ab.

Part 2 of learning jazz basics will follow soon.

In the meantime, why not enrol on my course (if you haven’t already).

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